Sri Lanka's Amazing Temples

I am thoroughly enjoying my stay in Sri Lanka, an island off the southern coast of India. It has a very long history of self-governance, subjugation to foreign powers (think Portugal and Britain, to name just two), followed by self-governance once again. Today, some two years after it signed a peace treaty with the Tamil Tiger rebels in the north, the country is a relatively stable democracy (Is any democracy really “stable?”).

Seventy-five percent of its people are Buddhist, with Hindus making up 15% and Muslims and Christians together representing 7.5%. I have been struck by how incredibly seamlessly the religions coexist and respect each other, knowing each others‘ holidays, beliefs and practices.

Both Buddhists and Hindus have, over the centuries, built exquisite temples and monasteries, worthy of extensive photography, if only I had enough time this visit. I do intend to return, though.

This is one example, a monastery built into a cliff overhang and known as the Dambulla Cave Temple. In many temple enclaves, you will find both Buddhist and Hindu places of worship, although not in Dambulla. Over the centuries the two religions have intertwined so that they share a few of the same deities.

Photographically, Sri Lanka is a complex place to plan a visit. You’ll want to have a tripod with you to record its architecture and landscapes, but you’ll also need a good short zoom (like the Nikon 24-70) for markets and people. Always bring a polarizing filter with you, of course, wherever you travel. And ALWAYS ask permission before you stick a camera in someone’s face or think you are smart by photographing someone surreptitiously from far away with your long zoom. As always, let common courtesy prevail.

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